Out to the east of Phahonyothin, north-east of the city centre, Suvarnabhumi Airport and the surrounding Ramkhamhaeng area is huge but mainly suburban residential and largely unexplored by international tourists, even though most of them arrive here at the main Suvarnabhumi (pronounced “Soo-far-na-poom”) international airport. The reason most tourists don’t go here is that it’s not well served by public transport and it’s such a big area that you need wheels to get around in it. But if you do, it’s a whole other world of shops and cafes mainly catering to working families and tourists.
Suvarnabhumi Airport itself is huge, one of the largest airports in Asia with some 360 check-in counters spread over four floors and connected by 83 escalators and over 100 elevators! If you need to stay overnight at Suvarnabhumi Airport there is a half-decent Novotel hotel in the airport grounds with 600 rooms.
Although it’s quite large, Suvarnabhumi Airport only has one main terminal (expansion is planned in the future) with 7 councourses. You have to allow some time to navigate these, especially for connecting flights, as you will probably find yourself arriving on Level 2 but departing from Level 4. You have to do down to Level 1 to catch a shuttle bus or taxi to the city.
Inside Suvarnabhumi you’ll find a great range of restaurants, cafes, bars and duty free shops. There are more than 30 restaurants where you can sit down for a meal, with choices like Thai (obviously), Japanese and Chinese as well as the ubiquitous McDonalds, KFC, Burger King and some pizza chains. Our personal favourite place to kill an hour or so is the Asian Corner buffet restaurant on Concourse D, Level 4, which has a passable dim sum menu as well as some Vietnamese and Japanese dishes like spring rolls and ramen.
It’s worth knowing that most domestic flights now depart from Don Mueang Airport closer to the city, although there are express shuttle buses to some destinations on the ramp outside Level 2.
Attractions of Ramkhamhaeng district
If you are coming from the international airport, you can get to Ramkhamhaeng via the Airport Rail Link which connects to the Bangkok Skytrain and opened in August 2010. There is a Ramkhamhaeng station stop but it is right on the southwest edge of the district which is a bit out of the way for most travellers.
Of course as for much of Bangkok, you can get there easily by boat. The Saen Saep Express Boat runs up and down the Saen Saep Canal every 10 minutes or so and has stops all along the canal parallel to the main Ramkhamsaeng Road. The easiest place to catch a boat from is Pratunam and they run from 5.30 am to 8.30 pm daily for around 10-20B per trip.
The major attraction in Ramkhamhaeng is Safari World, which is the biggest open zoo in Bangkok and is styled after an African safari park with over 300 acres of lions, tigers, elephants and other animals, as well as dolphins, seals and birds. Entry fee is 700B and it’s open from 9.00 am to 4.30 pm weekdays or until 5.30 pm on the weekends.
There is also Siam Park City, a man-made water park which is a nice place to get a break from the heat and humidity of Bangkok. It has a range of pools with huge waterslides, a zoo (much smaller than Safari World), a kid’s playground and some beautiful gardens to explore. Entry is 200B each and it’s open from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm every day.
Although I think the shopping is way better in Pratunam, there is also a big shopping mall here called Fashion Island that has a good range of clothes, shoes, bags and fashion accessories, as well as jewellery, books and even some furniture.
Accommodation at Suvarnabhumi Airport
If you need to stay overnight close to Suvarnabhumi Airport, there are a couple of highly rated hotels in the area:
Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport is a 24-hour, 4-star international hotel just 150 metres from the airport (through the Rail Link Station), so handy for a quick getaway in the morning. It’s really the only option if you want to stay at the airport. The hotel provides a free 24 hour shuttle service to and from the airport for guests running about every 10 minutes. Rooms start around USD$240 per night and if you find the food a bit expensive there’s a cheap Thai restaurant near the 7/11 store next door.
Best Western Premier Amaranth Suvarnabhumi Airport is the next closest hotel, a 4.5 star property next to the Thana City Golf and Country Club. So if you have a few hours of daylight to spare before your flight you can play 9 holes of golf right next door. Rooms start at just USD$75 per night, so it’s much cheaper and also offers a free shuttle service to and from the airport.